Sam Explains

Evolution

This week Sam gives Danielle a crash course in fictional biology with the 2001 film Evolution. When a meteor strikes Earth carrying an alien goo which rapidly starts growing and evolving, it’s up to community college professors Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) to investigate and prevent the aliens from taking over the world. Only not really since they are woefully unqualified and unequipped the handle anything this important, thus the government quickly steps in with the help of CDC Deputy Director Dr. Allison Reid (Julianne Moore). Ira and Harry don’t give up, and, with the help of firefighter in training Wayne (Sean William Scott), are determined to take the glory of the alien discovery for themselves at any cost, often with a healthy dose of terrible science and misogyny, just because. Sam becomes increasingly irate as the film continually sprays bad science at him like shampoo through a fire hose, culminating in a solution so asinine it forces Sam to root for the military industrial complex. Danielle, meanwhile, is confused about when the rapidly evolving aliens could reach a point where humanity could parley with them, but is mostly upset that Dr. Reid ends up leaving her job for the utterly charmless Ira; we both think she can do better. So enjoy as Sam finds himself rooting strongly for the antagonists in a film that’s as fast and loose with its character development as it is with its science.

Be sure to check out I Drink Your Podcast which covers every film from 2007, especially the episode about Next featuring Danielle and Sam. You can find them on Twitter @IDYP_Podcast, Instagram @idyp_podcast, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Agent Cody Banks

This week Sam brings Danielle back to the heady days of 2003 with the movie Agent Cody Banks. Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is your average 15-year-old boy, except he was scooped up, in what has the be the most slipshod CIA training program ever, to become a youth agent. Why was Cody chosen for this prestigious role? We don’t know, and neither does the CIA. Nonetheless, when the evil organization E.R.I.S. is planning on using the nanobots invented by Dr. Albert Connors for…something evil probably, the CIA taps Cody to foil their evil plan. Using all the suave and subtlety of a teenage boy, Cody is to befriend Dr. Connor’s daughter Natalie (Hilary Duff) to secure an invention to her upcoming Las Vegas themed birthday party and attempt to…talk to Dr. Connors? Honestly, all the plans in this movie are as straightforward as an Escher drawing and not nearly as well composed. Now Cody must overcome his greatest weakness, talking to girls, and become the top agent the CIA has been training him to be for all of the past two summers so he can save the world (or something).

Correction: Hilary Duff did not appear in the sequel Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. We regret the error and apologize to Ms. Duff and her family for any pain this characterization may have caused. Our bad.

Reign of Fire

On this episode Sam brings Danielle the 2002 box office bomb Reign of Fire. In the distant future year of 2020 dragons have been awoken from their cicada-like hibernation and have ravaged the earth, reducing humanity to a few pockets of life. Quinn (Christian Bale) leads one such colony in Northumberland, though food is scarce and there’s dissension in the ranks. None of that really matters as soon enough militia leader Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) shows up to rope Quinn into his quest to wipe out the source of the dragons: The single male dragon living in London. At this point, Sam cannot understand the biology of a species that only has one male capable of breeding, and how these same dragons were apparently responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs. Danielle, meanwhile, is more upset about the fact that the starving survivors let a perfectly good dragon carcass go to waste instead of just eating it. There’s also some tension between Quinn and his adopted son Jared about his joining Van Zan’s soldiers, but it’s over so quick Sam’s still not sure it wasn’t just a hallucination brought on by all the dragon special effects and dark lighting. Either way, the heroes square off against the dragon king in a battle that’s kinda lame, but does have a shirtless Matthew McConaughey wielding a battleaxe in one of the best scenes ever put to film, so it’s totally worth it.

The Night of Wishes – Part 2

This week Sam shares the conclusion of the the Michael Ende novel The Night of Wishes. We rejoin our story as our two bumbling animal heroes wander out into the snowy night with no plan to stop the evil sorcerer Preposteror and his aunt Tyrannia Vampirella from completing their evil deed quota via magic wishing potion. Fortunately, Preposteror and Vampirella have to spend an inordinate amount of time doing ridiculously complicated magics to brew the potion, when they’re not wasting time they don’t have trying to back-stab each other, that is. Through some pure, blind luck Mauricio (née Morris) and Jacob manage to obtain a time traveling bell ring from the upcoming the New Year’s Eve bell tolling, which, if we’re understanding this correctly, would undo the reverse wishing effect of the potion and foil the evil plans. At this point, both Danielle and Sam have a little breakdown because they’re so confused by the time traveling sounds and complicated wishing/reverse wishing/undo reverse wishing magic rules. It doesn’t help that Preposteror and Vampirella continue to do ridiculous things like race while riding a giant scorpion and bedbug respectively. However, it’s when the wishes start that things really go off-the-wall, so enjoy as Sam tries desperately to make Danielle understand just any amount of what he’s saying.

The Night of Wishes – Part 1

Sam shares a lesser known work of the author of The Neverending Story, Michael Ende, with the book The Night of Wishes. When the nefarious sorcerer Beelzebub Preposteror (whose name Danielle is incapable of saying correctly) falls behind on his quota of evil deeds for the year, he has until midnight to fulfill his contract or face foreclosure by the devil himself. Fortunately, his witch aunt Tyrannia Vampirella, who’s in the same boat, shows up with a plan: To brew the legendary Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion that will let them literally wish all their problems away. Unfortunately, each of them is living with a spy from the High Council of Animals, a cat named Maurico di Mauro and a raven named Jacob Scribble, who are determined to stop them. These spies, however, are incompetent to a degree that is only surpassed by the sorcerer and his aunt’s inability to cooperate, and none of them seem capable of forming a coherent plan. So listen to Sam struggle with German wordplay and pronunciations and Danielle struggle with character names and pretty much everything else, especially the overly complicated rules of the magic potion in a book that’s both incredibly goofy and unexpectedly dark.

Toys

Sam introduces Danielle to the 1992 Robin Williams film Toys. Enter a whimsical world where an eccentric Willy Wonka-esque toy maker dies when his propeller beanie connected pacemaker fails. He leaves his wacky toy factory to his brother, three-star general Leland Zevo, instead of his man-child son Leslie for reasons that are unclear. Despite having no interest in toys, General Zevo agrees to run the toy factory, and quickly pivots to making “war toys” and then to making actual weapons of war that he plans to trick children into using for military applications. If that plan sounds insane, then the plan Leslie comes up with to stop this is somehow even crazier (hint: it involves making a highly produced fake MTV music video for no apparent reason). This movie has it all: Creepy murder-toys, unnecessary romance, gratuitous sex, overly complicated plans, eerie music, actually beautiful aesthetics, and more whimsy than a Wes Anderson fan convention. Despite all that, Sam is convinced this movie is actually a thinly veiled horror film and its world is actually a dystopia; Danielle is just plain confused.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

This week Sam introduces Danielle to the classic 1985 post-apocalyptic film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The Mad Max franchise is well known for telling the gritty story of the collapse of society, a nuclear apocalypse, and one man who attempts to survive alone in the new world. Beyond Thunderdome takes that serious story and makes it delightfully goofy in every way. After having his camel-drawn cart stolen, the titular Max ends up in Bartertown, the most advanced city in the Australian wasteland. He quickly becomes embroiled in a political assassination plot that is wildly over-complicated as the queen of Bartertown, played fabulously by Tina Turner, wishes to have the bodyguard of the mechanical genius behind the city’s success killed. None of that is really important as it’s just an excuse to get Max into Thunderdome with the formidable Blaster for a fight scene that is as delightful as it is bizarre. After some contrived shenanigans and the application of laws that are notable mostly in their ability to be chanted by a mob, Max is exiled to the wasteland but is rescued both by a magic monkey and a tribe of teenagers and children that have formed a cult religion about a savior pilot after being abandoned in an oasis. The crazy only escalates from there as Max and the kids are forced into a conflict with Tina Turner and the Bartertown Bunch mostly as an excuse to have a climactic train/car chase through the desert. That all sounds ridiculous, and it is, but the costumes are amazing, the is action way over the top, and the plot is nonsensical, so really, what more could we possibly ask for?

Highlander II: The Quickening (feat. I Drink Your Podcast)

This week Sam shares the insanity that is the 1991 movie Highlander II: The Quickening, and to deal with it Danielle calls for backup in the form of Emily from I Drink Your Podcast. In the year 2024 the world has been encased in a shield to protect Earth from the intense rays of the sun now able to ravage to planet due the destruction of the ozone layer. For some reason, Connor MacLeod, now mortal and old beyond his years, was involved in the creation of the shield. How exactly his previous career as a sword wielding immortal translates to large scale engineering projects is a question beyond answer. It’s also revealed that Connor is from the past, or an alien from another planet depending on if you watch the director’s cut of the film, and was sent to the future/Earth with the other immortals as punishment for their participation in a rebellion against Michael Ironside as their evil ruler General Katana. All that crazy is before Sam even gets to the plot (such as it is) or the resurrection of Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, played by Sean Connery. About the only thing this sequel seems to retain from the first film is the baffling accent choices, so dive in as we discover there can be only one…again.

Check out more of Emily and I Drink Your Podcast on Twitter @IDYP_Podcast, Instagram @idyp_podcast, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Tremors

This week Sam helps Danielle up her Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game by bringing her the 1990 film Tremors. Perfection, Nevada is your typical middle of nowhere tiny town from which handymen Valentine McKee and Earl Bassett are hoping to escape to the city. Their big adventure is interrupted by a series of mysterious deaths and a landslide that wipes out the only road out of town. Couple that with some strange seismographic readings from the newly arrived graduate seismology graduate student, Rhonda LeBeck, and you have a recipe for giant, murderous, subterranean tentacle-worms. Danielle is so excited for the worms she can hardly contain herself and Sam can hardly contain his exasperation as she constantly wants to know more about them with questions he is nowhere near qualified to answer. Rhonda, however, quickly proves to be a giant tentacle-worm expert, somehow, and comes up with several plans to try and escape the deathtrap of a worm-filled valley. Unfortunately, the tentacle-worms, appear to be the smartest things in the valley and foil our heroes at every turn, while Danielle is frustrated that this rural town has a dearth of off-road vehicles they could use to just drive away and end this nonsense. In any case, after a worm briefly eats Rhonda’s pants, they make for their big escape using explosives and weapons from the local prepper couple. This movie inexplicably spawned six sequels and half a SyFy original TV show, and Sam and Danielle can only hope that all their questions about the lifecycle and origins of the tentacle-worms are answered somewhere within all that direct-to-video goodness.

Shark Shock

Sam brings Danielle the show’s first middle grade novel with the Donna Jo Napoli book Shark Shock. Adam is your typical eleven-year-old boy: he likes video games and playing soccer, and is absolutely terrified of sharks. This really isn’t a problem until his family plans a three-week vacation to the New Jersey shore in the same place where the shark attacks that Jaws were based on happened. Adam quickly comes up with a plan to keep himself safe while swimming in the ocean: His talking freckles can keep a lookout and warn him about sharks. Yes, there are talking freckles living on Adam, and no, Sam hasn’t read the first book in this series, Soccer Shock, which may explain some of this. Unfortunately, divisive political squabbling amongst the freckles means they won’t be able to help. Danielle has questions, but even if Sam had answers there’s no time as Adam makes a new friend at the beach by the name of Seth, who was blinded in a boating accident a few years earlier. Adam thinks maybe he can help Seth listen to his own freckles so they can help see for him. Sam is annoyed with Adam’s parents for some pretty blatantly sexist behavior by giving Adam his own room instead of his older sister. Danielle just wants to know where the heck are all the freaking sharks.